By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Take 10 teams, a big raft, three nights and two days, and you've got Rafting for Wishes, which was held in Meredith Bay for the third consecutive year this past weekend, and which raises money to grant wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
"We raised around $70,000. We're pretty excited about that," said Julie Baron, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish New Hampshire. The total raised, once the final donations are counted, will exceed last year's count by about $20,000, and will approximate the amount raised two years ago, the first time that the event was held on Lake Winnipesaukee's Meredith Bay.
It costs an average of $10,000 in cash and in-kind donations to grant each wish, said Baron, meaning that the 2016 event, which occurred July 29, 30 and 31 in the water off of Heskey Park, will make possible at least seven wishes.
Rafting for Wishes was born five years ago when two men sat in a raft in the Merrimack River for 36 hours. The event moved to the Seacoast for the next year, and three years ago found its home in Meredith. Since its founding, the event has raised a total of $335,000.
The move to Meredith was more than just a change of location. It was also the year that the event welcomed teams of people to man their raft for a duration of 44 hours – a length of time chosen to reflect the 44 children waiting in the queue for their wish to be granted. This year, Baron said, Make-A-Wish New Hampshire has received 103 referrals.
While the event was held during the week for its first two years in Meredith, Rafting for Wishes was a weekend festivity this year, a change which Baron said was well received and drew only positive comments.
"The town of Meredith really rallied around us this year," said Baron. The town supplied its inflatable projector screen, and played "Minions" on Friday night. Miles Marine helped to secure the raft and to shuttle rafters to and from shore. Tilton Police and their Explorers helped during the overnight periods, and many volunteers helped in other various capacities. Atlas Fireworks put on a show for free, and families whose children would be benefiting, or had benefited, were on scene to remind rafters what the effort was all about.
On Monday, Baron and others were comparing notes to discuss ways to improve the event for next year. She would like to find ways to make the event more fun, engage the team members earlier in the year and grow the event.
"Anyone that wants to help us recruit team, that's what we could really use," she said. For more information, visit www.raftingforwishes.org.
Erica Auciello Murphy, Wish Buddy Emily Ledger and Sandi Shepardson from the Common Man office in Ashland are about to set sail at Rafting for Wishes. (Courtesy photo)
Rafting for Wishes are Jason Perry, 44-hour Survivors; Cassie Infante Target, Carly Cullen Target, Mackenzie and Bobby Welch of the Common Man; Donna and David Parker, Tony Dumas and Conner Cyrus, 44-hour Survivors; Whitney Deturk of T-Bones/Cactus Jacks; "Wish Kid" Padraic Moley; and Sandy Shepardson of The Common Man Saturday afternoon in Meredith Bay. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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